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article imageSpaceX to attempt rocket landing on California soil tonight

By Karen Graham     Oct 7, 2018 in Technology
SpaceX will loft an Earth-observation satellite and attempt its first-ever rocket landing on California soil tonight, with the launch scheduled for 10:21 p.m. EDT. There will also be an attempt to "catch" the payload fairing using Mr. Steven.
The last time SpaceX did a launch on the West Coast was on July 25 and of all the company's successful landings of its Falcon 9 boosters on barges in the ocean and on land - All but four of these landings have taken place on the East Coast of the U.S. at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
However, the company's other space complex is in Southern California, at Vandenberg AFB. The West Coast site is used when rockets need to be launched to fly southward to put satellites on a north-south orbit around Earth.
The Block 5 rocket booster being used tonight is designated B1048 by SpaceX. This booster first took to the skies on July 25, delivering 10 Iridium NEXT communications satellites into orbit. The booster then touched down in the Pacific on SpaceX's "Just Read the Instructions" vessel.
If all goes according to schedule, the two-stage SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket topped by Argentina's SAOCOM-1A satellite will launch - with the Falcon 9's first stage coming back to Earth and "Landing Zone 4" nine minutes later.
Argentina's SAOCOM-1A satellite
The SAOCOM 1A satellite was developed by Argentina’s national space agency Comision Nacional de Actividades Espaciales, (CONAE), and is a radar observation satellite. The satellite weighs in at 3,500-lb. (1,600 kilograms). SAOCOM-1A's twin, SAOCOM-1B, will also reach orbit aboard a Falcon 9; its flight is targeted for next year.
The launch can be viewed live at Space.com, courtesy of SpaceX or directly on the SpaceX channel.
"Local residents may see the first stage of the Falcon 9 returning to Vandenberg AFB, including multiple engine burns associated with the landing," U.S. Air Force officials wrote in an advisory Tuesday (Oct. 2). "During the landing attempt, residents from Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties may hear one or more sonic booms."
SpaceX s Jaw-Dropping Rocket Launch Wows Spectators Across Southern California .
SpaceX's Jaw-Dropping Rocket Launch Wows Spectators Across Southern California .
SpaceX
"Sonic boom warning," SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk wrote on Twitter Saturday "This won't be subtle."
Mr. Steven will play catcher on this launch
In July this year, SpaceX engineers installed four new and dramatically larger arms, as well as eight giant struts on the Falcon fairing recovery vessel Mr. Steven.
Mr. Steven  with basically a giant catcher’s mitt welded on  will try to catch the fairing.
Mr. Steven, with basically a giant catcher’s mitt welded on, will try to catch the fairing.
Elon Musk
The fairing is the nose cone structure which encapsulates the payloads. The ear-plug shaped casing sits on top of the rocket. This is what shields the payload during launch. It also helps to keep the launch vehicle aerodynamic. Once the rocket reaches the vacuum of outer space, the fairing is no longer needed.
This is when it separates into two pieces and returns to Earth. The fairing on a Falcon rocket costs an estimated $6.0 million, or about 10 percent of the Falcon 9's launch cost. So with a fairing split into two halves, each worth $3.0 million, two recoveries are needed for each launch.
So it makes sense, economically, to recover as many fairing halves as possible, and that is part of SpaceX's bottom line - making spaceflight more affordable while maintaining a high standard of safety. Meeting the goal of recovering rocket fairings - along with rocket boosters - could lay the groundwork for a future where interplanetary travel is no longer seen as an insurmountable mountain.
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